garden chickens


9 Years
Feb 23, 2010
Central Washington
I just bought the book 'city chicks' by Patricia Foreman and have been reading about using chickens to aid in gardening (pest control, fertilizer, etc..) Sounds awesome! I have a fenced off garden (about 28x28) area that would LOVE some chicken help BUT the fence is only about 4 feet high. I'm thinking that a full grown chicken could easily flap over that. Am I right? Maybe I'll be able to free range my younger chicks in there (closely supervised) before they can flap that high? (I'm thinking that I want them picking out weed seeds, scratching around and pooing all they can before I plant)

I'm thinking that I could make a moveable a frame with hardware cloth or chicken wire to keep a chicken or two under periodically after the garden's planted (so they would still have the regular coop and run to live in, but get a little 'garden vacation' occasionally) so they don't destroy my plants, do you think that would work? How big do you think it would need to be for 1-2 chickens? (And like I said, I'm just planning on them having a little outing there, and not leaving them there 12 hours a day or anything).

Any thoughts and experiences would be greatly appreciated!

Oh, BTW: I live in the middle of the city (it's a small city, so don't think NYC or anything...don't even think suburb. VERY small, one gas station, little mom and pop grocery store, etc..) so I need to make sure that I don't have any escapee's so no matter what I do there will definately be a lot of supervision during the testing phases.

I use a temporary fence to keep the chooks out of my garden area. It is the plastic hardware cloth, with bamboo tomato stakes threaded through it. Very lightweight and easy to install, move, roll up and store when not in use. It is 4' high or less but the chooks have never tried to fly over it.
I always let my Golden Buffs into the garden, but not until the plants are well established.....the gals would just eat the tender sprouts....LOL They really enjoy poking around getting bugs, and they LOVE to run in and out of the corn when it's tall. It's like their little jungle. LOL And believe it or not, they've never torn up a single plant. They just kind of scratch around a bit and eat bugs. I throw them the occasional tomatoe. They LOVE tomatoes!

They are my little garden helpers....follow me all around. I often catch bugs and hand them over to the girls.....LOL

I did hear that some breeds are more agress with digging and such though.......

I just can't WAIT for the garden!

Ahhhh Spring.......
I read that book a few months ago...and loved it! Its on my "next to buy" list on Amazon. It had so much information and a lot of it pertained to me, since I'm gardening and keeping chickens in a mid-sized yard (3/4 of an acre for the entire lot). In a perfect world I would have two gardens/run, one coop. Then alternate the use each year. However, my yard is not perfect and I have to improvise
Yes, they do fly over 4ft... I have several that fly over the 6ft (mostly my EEs & GSLs).

I do not let my girls forage in my garden when it is growing or established...they destroy everything in their path! But, they do not attempt to fly into my garden...for some reason they never have shown any interest when the door to the garden is closed
Mine freerange only a few hours a night, usually I'm outside, to keep an eye on them. The frame would be a great idea to keep down weeds and such, between the rows.
"City Chicks" is an awesome book! I too, plan on using chickens as garden helpers to eat weed seeds and sprouts, slugs, snails, beetles, and grubs, and to till in the compost that they have helped to make. I'm beginning to thing that producing eggs is just a "bonus" in addition to all the good they do in a garden!

I've been concerned about fence height as well. While the chickens will have their own coop and run, I'm going to make a connecting run to our garden, which is already fenced in to protect it from woodchucks. The fence in this area is only 4 foot high. I've heard that larger, heavier breeds, such as Orpingtons, are less likely to fly, so that may be an option for you. I'm considering bantams though, as they eat less and have smaller poops. (Small poops compost faster.) I'm debating between clipping the wings on one side, or adding poultry netting to extend the height of the fence. Haven't decided which route to go yet, and will be interested to hear what other folks have to say on the matter.
I'm not planning on having the coop/run in my garden, it was going to be on the other side of the yard. I figured they would be able to jump/flap over a fence that hight. Bummer. I was definately planning on keeping them out of there once i had plants growing (they'd love my veggies too well)! The book suggested keeping the hens in caged in or the plants caged in, but it would really cut down on garden space to have a fence 7+ inches all the way around my garden rows (she said that hens have about a 7 inch reach through a fence)....Thanks for the input. I might just need to do deep liter and keep a compost pile for my garden. That doesn't help with the bugs or weeds though. Hmmmmmm, I have lots of long (at least 6 feet high) bamboo poles in my garage (they were in there when we bought the house 5 years ago and we've never had a use for them. I guess I could attach them to the stakes already holding the garden fence and then run chicken wire or some sort of webbing or netting over the top to completely cage it in? Or I guess I could just put it over the top of the 4 foot fence and not need to highten it (especially if they're not in there permanently). Lots to think about. Thanks for letting me bat around some ideas!

I love your vision! I'd love to read the book, too. We live with 6 hens and 2 roosters (that will eventually become 1) and as much as I'd love to have my chooks in our garden full-time, I've realized that it's not going to be perfect. This past year they dug quite badly around a number of plants and shrubs, and they will devour my kale, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuces if they are near them. We lost most of our brassicas when they were foraging in the veggie garden unattended. And do not even ask about the tomatoes and peaches. Yes, peaches.
My romantic vision of chickens in the garden was not very realistic ;-) So far.
I am scheming to keep trying things, and a chicken tractor made with PVC pipes and chicken wire or hardware cloth will be on the to-make list. Hardware cloth might be trickier, but will give me added security if the chooks are under it when any dogs come by. If I am not home, they would be in the run.

I love the foraging ability I see in them so far, but they have not been able to discriminate between weeds and food for us, lol! BTW, my heaviest girls are my Black Australorps, and they always fly over our 4 foot fence, straight to the compost pile and veggie garden.
As soon as I pull down the driveway, over they go!
My Ds has to run and put them back in the yard. (We have a fully enclosed run and a outdoor enclosed area for them when we go on short trips...only enclosed with a 4 foot fence, and this is what they fly over, quite easily, I might add. ) In fact the Aussies can fly up to the top of their run (7 feet) !!

I think it will be a work in progress, but I am willing to keep trying because they have truly been a joy this past year. Who knew having chickens would be so wonderful...
Oh - one thing I forgot to add. Last year when the garden was done, I took down the temporary fence and the chooks had a blast. They tore down my pea plants for me (I had already picked the peas) and ate the entire plant. They finished off the swiss chard. They finished off the Kale. I picked the broccoli and left the plants for them - there was nothing left of the plants in no time. Once they were done eating the remnants of the garden, they set to tilling it for me. They have dug and turned and dug and turned - tireless little workers. Over the winter, when cleaning out the coop, I dumped the poop into the garden, and the chooks have thoughtfully dug that in for me now too. So it should be nicely dug over and fertilized for me to start planting in the Spring (at which point I will re-erect the temp fence).

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